Exclusive: Former Quess Corp executives’ social discovery platform Woovly raises $2.5 mn
Social discovery platform Woovly has raised $2.5 million in a second seed funding round led by Duane Park, a venture launched by India Equity Partners co-founder Anurag Bhargava.
Woovly had previously raised $350,000 in its first seed funding round from US-headquartered venture capital firm SOSV. It is currently a part of SOSV’s MOX accelerator program.
Woovly, which is based in Bengaluru, helps people to search and explore bucket list ideas and activities. Founded by Venkat J, Neha Suyal and Hithendra Ramachandran, the platform was formally launched in February this year. It aggregates potential sales deals in the form of wish lists and connects users to local experience providers.
The startup will use the capital raised in the seed round for user and merchant acquisitions, besides investing in technology to bring in vernacular voice-based support to leverage growing demand from Tier II cities and beyond, Venkat J told TechCircle.
The startup is in the pre-revenue phase currently. The platform’s primary revenue stream will be an advertising model where large consumer brands catering to the experience space or travel package providers can promote their products and services on the platform. Woovly will work with them on a cost-per-click (CPC) or a cost-per-install (CPI) model. Further, it will share the potential sales deals with local service providers on a revenue share model.
It doesn’t enable fulfilment of leads generated on the platform. However, it is aggregating both large and smaller brands onto the platform and plans to launch its commerce operations from January next year.
“The next phase of our growth is about on-boarding as many local service providers as possible on the platform and to run the whole fulfilment of the requests. Merchants will be able to sign up, create profiles, list their products and services and sell them to users on the platform. We are following a very hand-picked approach to creating a highly curated, high safety and high quality list of local vendors offering unique experiences,” Venkat said.
Venkat and Ramachandran were part of the founding team of business services firm Quess Corp while Suyal worked with Hewlett Packard Enterprise before joining Quess Corp. Ramachandran currently serves as co-founder and managing director of private equity fund Carpediem Capital and is not a full-time co-founder at Woovly.
According to Venkat, the platform has more than half a million registered users who have contributed more than 2.6 million wishlists on the platform. That translated into as many potential sales leads.
“We have an enormous opportunity. We are a two-sided platform – leads and commerce. Additionally, our cost of acquisition is much lower than the market. Once we acquire a user, we have the opportunity of selling multiple packages a year without any additional cost. We are seeing a lot of traction on the vernacular side, so we will have vernacular content and voice-based support,” he added.
Woovly is targeting a total of six million users in the next two years. It currently has 1,200 service providers on its network, and wants to take the number to 7000 by March next year.
The company is currently in discussions with non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) to enable financial support to help people fulfil their wishlists. It wants to partner with financial service providers to help users plan and save towards the activity they want to experience in the future, and also to offer financing arrangements for immediate plans, Venkat said.
Differentiating in a crowded market
Even with its differentiated offering, Woovly is stepping into a crowded market consisting of online travel agents such as MakeMyTrip-GoIbibo, Yatra and Booking.com, travel community platforms Tripoto and HolidayIQ, and holiday package providers and marketplaces such as TravelTriangle, TripFactory and Ixigo.
While the startup may find advertising prospects in some of these travel and package providers, the real task would be to maintain its true character as scale can potentially blur the fine line between a bucket-listing platform and a travel/holiday solution provider.
Venkat said he’s not worried about the risk of straddling the two identities.
“Bucket lists largely are adventures or unique experiences. Most experiences happen outside the house, which essentially becomes travel. We are a social discovery platform first, and along with the social discovery, the commerce comes into the picture. We see that as an opportunity. According to several studies and surveys, people don’t want to just travel any longer, they want experiences. That’s what we will focus on. We will offer a combination of both travel and experiences,” he said.
The lead investor Anurag Bhargava is a global private and public investor through his holding company Duane Park. He is currently on the boards of SpiceJet Limited and Ummeed Housing Finance. He is also the chairman of startups Yaantra, Casita, Sukkhi, FLOColive.
Silicon Valley-based SOSV, with over $650 million under management, has so far invested in more than 800 startups. It operates six vertically focused global accelerator programs such as MOX (Taipei) for mobile internet, HAX (Shenzhen and San Francisco) for hardware; IndieBio (San Francisco) and RebelBio (London) for life sciences; Chinaccelerator (Shanghai) for cross-border internet and software; and Food-X (New York) for food-tech and agritech.
Technology incubator Xelpmoc is a technology partner for the startup. Founded by former JustDial CTO Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Xelpmoc builds and maintains technology infrastructure for startups on a tech-for-equity model.